Okavango - Moremi
Much of what is covered in this section, and especially concerning Flora and fauna and When to visit, is applicable to the Okavango as a whole – hence I've covered this information here in detail, and made reference to it elsewhere where appropriate.
Remember that Moremi and its surrounding reserves are only separated by lines on a map; their ecosystems blend together seamlessly. Birds and animals move without hindrance across almost the whole of the Okavango, Linyanti and Chobe regions. The enormous size of this, together with the diversity of ecosystems that it contains, are two of the main reasons why the wildlife of northern Botswana is so spectacular.
In his Travels and Researches in South Africa
David Livingstone recounts what he was told by the local people near Lake Ngami in 1849 about the origin of a river there:While ascending in this way the beautifully-wooded river, we came to a large stream flowing into it. This was the Tamunak'le. I enquired whence it came. 'Oh, from a country full of rivers – so many no one can tell their number – and full of large trees.'
However, within a hundred years of Europeans finding this 'country full of rivers', its environment and wildlife were under threat. In an exceedingly far-sighted move, the BaTawana people proclaimed Moremi as a game reserve in 1962, in order to combat the rapid depletion of the area's game and the problems of cattle encroachment.
Initially Moremi consisted mainly of the Mopane Tongue area, then in the 1970s the royal hunting grounds of Chief Moremi, known as Chief's Island, was added. Since then, in 1992, the reserve has been augmented by the addition of a strip of land to the northwest corner of the reserve, between the Jao and Nqoga rivers. This was done to make sure that it represented all the major Okavango habitats, including the northern Delta's papyrus swamps and permanent wetlands which had not previously been covered by it.
As an aside, it's often cited that this was the first reserve in Africa that was created by native Africans. This is true and recognises that the native inhabitants were the prime movers here, rather than the colonial authorities. However, beware of ignoring the fact that Africa's original inhabitants seemed to coexist with the wildlife all over the continent without needing any 'reserves' until Europeans started arriving.
Moremi Game Reserve protects the central and eastern areas of the Okavango Delta. It forms a protected nucleus for the many wildlife reserves/concessions in the region. Physically Moremi is very flat, encompassing extensive floodplains, some seasonal, others permanent, numerous waterways and two main landmasses: the Mopane Tongue and Chief's Island.
Its area is defined in some places by rivers, although their names and actual courses are anything but easy to follow on the ground. Its northern boundary roughly follows the Nqoga-Khwai river system, whilst its southern boundary is defined in sequence by the Jao, Boro and Gomoti Rivers.
It's worth noting that since the middle of the last century it seems that the western side of the Delta (specifically the Thaoge River system) has gradually been drying up. As this has happened, an increasing amount of water is entering the Moanachira/Khwai River system, on the eastern side of Chief's Island – helping to raise water levels around the Khwai River area, and increase the incidence of flooding on the roads there.